I used to be a fan of advancing technology, but that was when I was a kid. The older I got, the more disinterested I became in it — nowadays every time I hear of some advancement we’ve made, I cringe with fear. Lately, it’s beginning to feel like society is regressing while our technology is evolving and that, to me, is a bad combination.
This fear of mine has been encapsulated beautifully in movies like The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) and Jurassic Park (1991) where mankind’s creations got the better of them. And Jeff Goldblum’s statement in Jurassic Park, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” when he’s reacting to Richard Attenborough’s explanation of how they cloned the dinosaurs, has always resonated with me when I first heard it.
You can apply that same statement to Zetman. Here it appears mankind has descended yet another rung on the regression scale when it’s explained in the very beginning how this Japanese corporation genetically created these monsters they call, “players,” to replace humans in this very lucrative, high class underground fight club. Well, as predicted, these Frankenstein creations eventually get a clue and realize they are being exploited. They’re reaction is natural and during a fight they break out and kill everyone in the audience.
Cut to years later and these Players have become an underground society amongst humans. A secret one, of course. For the most part the Players have decided to quietly integrate themselves by assuming human form and most pose no threat. Others, however, are psychopaths and revel in killing any human they come across; hiding in plain sight in their skin suit but regressing into their monster form to kill. Regressing, however, poses a bit of a problem. There’s this urban legend among the Players about this being called, The Sweeper, who ferrets out the ones who regress and destroys them. A kind of one-man police force among their society, but the scientists who created the Players had a better contingency plan against renegade Players.
Zet is its name, and before the lab was compromised and destroyed during the initial Player rebellion a scientist escapes with a human baby and vows to bring him up as a human. Jin (aka Zet) is like ten or eleven when we catch up to him next and he roams the back alleys of Japan helping people and asking for payment in return. He’s basically a pint-sized super-hero who has superhuman strength and can beat the living shit out of any adult. He pals around with a rich kid named, Kouga and his little sister, Konoha. Kouga dreams of being a crime fighter one day and they all help out Jin on his own crime fighting endeavors.
What I like about some of the best anime is that the characters aren’t black and white. The series follows Jin, Kouga and Konoha into their late teens and both Jin and Kouga have innate needs to help people, in the crime fighting sense, but their sense of “Justice” differs. Example, while helping out a mother and her children in a burning building, Jin’s idea of saving them is to put them all in this bed, close it off and send the whole thing down to the ground floor in the busted out hole he created getting to them. If they happen to die, at least they die together is his reasoning. Kouga’s sense of Justice is to leave the mother behind and save the children only since they might not be able to get them all out. Jin’s need is to save all at any cost, where Kouga’s need is to save the ones he can.
The entire series is basically an origin tale for both kids as Jin becomes Zetman, which he finally does, briefly, in episode 6, but his form is still evolving and over the course of the series he learns that his final, final form, which appears in episode 13 only, may mean the death of all humans. For Kouga who has no powers, he becomes the hero he always wanted to be through the creation of power armor his family’s corporation builds. The same corporation incidentally that created the Players. But there are internal betrayals that occur within the corporation that push Kouga to the brink of madness.
Both characters take dark turns in the final 3 episodes with a supporting character’s revelation that took me utterly by surprise. It ends in a dark confrontation between Zetman (aka Jin) and Alphas (aka Kouga) with a nice “Three Years Later” epilogue that in its own way is an ending and a beginning.
I have to admit that I didn’t quite get caught up in the series until episode 6, after that I was transfixed and couldn’t stop watching until the very, bittersweet end. The animation was quite good, and it’s a very bloody series when it has to be. There were some deaths of ancillary characters that I did not expect, most of them were a bunch of school girls that had been captured and used in this “test” Kouga was constantly being put through by this “madman.” Another was the random killings of three schoolgirls, who were also part of that test. Bodies shown all messed up in this park. One of them looked like she took a spear or trident through the throat.
Yes, I’ll reiterate, it’s quite a dark tale that at times had me wondering if I was watching nothing more than victims being put through their tragic paces.
Viz Media releases the entire 13-part series on blu-ray and DVD separately here in the US. Video/Audio/Subtitles: (Blu-ray) 1080p 1.78:1 high definition anamorphic transfer—English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio (Stereo)—Subtitles for English only when using the Japanese track.
Extras, which are on both the blu and the DVD consist of a NYCC Interview With Masakazu Katsura (4:22), he’s the creator of the manga the series is based on and gives insight into Zet. He looks at it as a take on superheroes, and even though it reminded me of The Guyver at times at no time during the conversation does he state The Guyver was any kind of inspiration. You also get the Clean Opening and the Clean Ending. For those not familiar with what those are, which some US releases of anime include as extras, is basically the opening and closing credits without the credits, images and music only. Finally you get Zetman’s trailer and a trailers for a bunch of other releases Viz Media puts out.
Definitely seek this one out.